Photos by Lauren Krysti
Floral Headpieces by Anna Lee
Hair & Makeup by Fatima Olive
Living in Fargo, it can sometimes feel as if we are stuck in an endless winter. However, local artist Anna Lee has found inspiration in hibernation. Now, as the sun begins to shine down on North Dakota, she is ready to share her new collection, “Body of Work,” which is a part of her ongoing “Gray Matter Series.”
Working in a Series and In Seasons
The Gray Matter Series is a name that encompasses all of Lee’s current creative ventures, including painting, millinery, film and so much more—you could say that she wears many hats. In Fall 2018, she produced “Gray Matter Series: Sense of Self,” which was on display at Luna. Each season, Lee conjures up a new collection. This is one of many influences from her decades spent in the fashion industry.
The Beauty of Hibernation
For Lee, winter is a time to look inward and reach outward to the community. While steeping a pot of tea over conversation in her Moorhead studio, she explained, “The beauty of hibernation is that we go deep within, whether we want to or not. This winter, I dedicated myself to figuring out what had been hiding inside while I was busy in the energy of spring and summer.
“Winter is a magical time to commit to your art. It’s really distinct in the Upper Midwest and Fargo. Growing up, we are not taught the power in that—everyone gets cranky about the weather.
“I actually enjoy winter now. If we take care of ourselves, we bloom with more vibrant colors when spring finally comes. When we’ve tended to our soil, the flowers that blossom from it are so much more luxurious, and we can share them with others,” Lee said.
An Explosion of Flowers
Lee’s vision for her spring collection was an explosion of flowers. It is safe to say that flower crowns are everywhere right now, and Anna Lee is no stranger to this trend. However, what sets her new pieces apart is that each flower looks like a 3D illustration.
“It’s an entirely different experience when you wear this flower versus flowers that I would’ve done a few years ago. With these, I feel that there is more of an intensity, there is more of a story,” she described.
Recently, she has drawn inspiration from her creative guidance sessions. “In my coaching and mentoring, I began drawing the things I was seeing and sensing when working with a client,” she said. From each of these sessions, Lee’s clients walked away with an extremely personal and meaningful work of art. Some of these portraits feature flowers reminiscent of motifs that Lee has been doodling ever since she was a child.
“Body of Work”
Through “Body of Work,” Lee expresses all aspects of herself as an artist and as a human being. “I’ve been pulling together the things that I’ve been doing for years and the things that I am just starting to bring into my career. The other side of “Body of Work” is more personal, where I have been spending time investigating what it means to get through winter with Seasonal Affective Disorder,” she shared.
A Creative Collaboration
Although “Body of Work” is very personal, Lee wanted—needed—collaborators. “For me, collaboration is so important every season because I ask different things of different people, which allows us to work through these concepts. It’s like a garden. You plant seeds and see what sprouts, what thrives, and you amend the soil to cultivate creativity,” said the artist.
When it came to bringing this collection to life, she reached out to top industry professionals and two of her frequent collaborators, photographer Lauren Krysti, hair and makeup artist Fatima Olive and fashion designer Gina Moorhead of House of Gina Marie; when the stars align and they are able to get together, something special happens. “With this photographer and hair and makeup artist, it’s like they have their own language,” Anna Lee revealed.
To create the explosion of flowers that you see within these pages, Lee had to experiment a little bit. When watering the seeds of this concept in her mind, she asked herself, “How do I bring in more of myself to make flowers that are even more of the aesthetic that I am going after? Instead of just working with millinery supplies, how can I work with raw materials?”
For the production process, she started by sketching petals. Lee would then paint, and draw over top of them. Then she scanned the petals, reformatted them and then had the design printed on chiffon because this was the best way to get the pattern to show through on both sides of the fabric. The challenge was then giving structure to the textile and getting the chiffon to hold its shape.
Upcoming Workerby Workshops
After constructing her current collection and collaborating with Lauren Krysti and Fatima Olive on a photoshoot, which took place in Minneapolis, the next step in “Body of Work” is for Lee to host creative workshops through her small business, Workerby (pronounced worker-bee). “With body of work, it is about honoring all of the work that we do. In May, I’m going to lead workshops about building your body of work. With the talks I’ve been giving and the collections I’ve been creating, it’s about helping people get to know themselves better.
“There will be one workshop in Minneapolis and one in Fargo. I’ve been spending time in both and to be able to host the workshop in both cities is very important to me. One of the things I have been working to cultivate is a sense of community wherever I am,” Anna Lee said.
For this artist and entrepreneur, winter is a time for solitude and for seeking camaraderie within the creative communities of Fargo and Minneapolis. Speaking from my own experience, I can attest that for all of the inspiration Anna Lee has within, she is twice the inspiration for young creatives. I hope you enjoy her Spring 2019 collection, “Body of Work,” as much as we do.
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